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Dersingham Folk
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Site by Mike Strange
The Old Dun Cow, She's Done For Now
Elizabeth Fiddick ©
As with this pleasant water-colour of the original Dun Cow pub few dates or origins of the images used here are known as they were acquired from Dersingham residents over a number of years.
Yes indeed!  The Old Dun Cow, she’s done for now.
Comment from Dick Melton
When we moved into Lynn Road it was called Dun Cow Lane (or just Cow Lane from a postcard; Ed); it was a very busy road, as the by-pass was not built until 1990 so all the traffic used this road. Just after the Second World War it was the second busiest road in England in the summer months, the busiest road being London to Brighton. Most of the houses in Lynn Road were built around 1900 though a few were built later. The Dun Cow was pulled down in the Nineties, though there had been a public house on the site since around 1800.  The Dun Cow was just one of the pubs that put up a team for the Ingoldisthorpe and District Cribbage League. 

Dun Cow demolition
Dun Cow demolition
Dun Cow demolition
Dun Cow demolition
Dun Cow demolition
Dun Cow demolition
Budgen build
Budgen build
Budgen build
Budgen build
Budgen build
Budgen build
Plaque recognising the Dun Cow now Budgen
Budgen build
The Dun Cow was thatched at one time but it is seen here in 1905 with its roof clad in traditional Norfolk pantiles. There used to be a pond in the farmyard to the left of the picture and Mr D. Reynolds recalled that a Mr Courtney built a boat and put it on the pond.
On August 4th 2014 it was one hundred years since the start of World War 1, the war to end wars, or so they thought. We have
only to look at the War Memorial to see how many young men of this village made the supreme sacrifice in the mud and hell that
was the battleground. In 1915 many Norfolk men served at Gallipoli against the Turks. Sir Ian Hamilton sent a report back
concerning one attack which involved the 1/5 Norfolk regiment. He reported that they were on the right of the line and found
themselves less strongly opposed than the rest. Colonel Sir H. Beauchamp led the men forward as the fighting grew hotter and
the ground became wooded and broken. Many men were wounded or exhausted with thirst in the intense heat but with sixteen
officers and 250 men the Colonel pushed on driving the enemy before them. Sir Ian records, Nothing more was ever seen or
heard of any of them. They charged into the forest and were
lost to sight and sound. Not one ever came back.
These men included Captain Frank Beck the Land Agent at
Sandringham and a company made up of men from this area
who worked on the estate with him. In Sept 1919 one hundred
and eighty of their bodies were located 800 yards behind the
Turkish lines. I have no doubt that in the days before these
attacks all the men found comradeship and humour despite
the harrowing conditions. We have all heard the songs
popular at the time that lifted the men’s spirits. Just off shore
from the landing area the steamer River Clyde that had been
used to ferry troops and supplies ashore had run aground and
was beached on a sandbank. The troops nicknamed her The
Old Dun Cow a reference to a song popular at the time that
contained the words "The Old Dun Cow, She’s done for now”.
The Old Dun Cow in question being a Public House that had
run dry. This would have had particular significance for any soldiers from Dersingham and would have brought back fond
memories of home. Perhaps they were the ones who initiated the nickname for newcomers to this village may not know when
they shop at Budgen’s Supermarket that the whole area where they shop and park their cars was the site of The Dun Cow Public
House and Farm. Originally there was a long two storey carstone cottage adjoining a much larger barn and cattle yards with a
low stone wall to the right, part of which still remains today. On the opposite side of the narrow road were two farm cottages that
still stand today.
In the 18th century many Turnpike roads were constructed and an Act of Parliament was passed in 1768 for widening the roads
from East Gate to Gayton, Grimston and to the north end of Babingley Lane. The Act directed that the road should run from the
said Wootton Gaps through the parish of Castle Rising to the South end of a certain other bridge called Babingley Bridge in
Babingley and from the North End of the same bridge to the North End of Babingley Lane in Babingley.
Some years later in 1811 in the reign of George III
a further act was passed for repairing the road
from the East Gate of King’s Lynn to Babingley
Lane and then "to extend the road thence to
Darsingham in the County of Norfolk. The Act
went on to note that the road through Babingley,
Wolferton and Sandringham to the sign of The
Dun Cow Darsingham was much out of repair,
incommodious, and dangerous for travellers. It
argued the case for the amending, widening,
improving, and keeping in repair through the
parishes of Babingley, Wolferton, Sandringham to
the sign of The Dun Cow Darsingham. However,
there were to be no tolls charged on the road from
Babingley to the sign of The Dun Cow
Darsingham but £950 was subscribed to pay for
the expenses incurred. Bryant’s Map of Norfolk in
1826 plots this road with the end of the Turnpike at
The Dun Cow clearly noted.
A Commercial Directory of 1830 records Robert
West as the Proprietor of The Dun Cow Inn and in
1836 he is recorded as Victualler and Farmer of The Dun Cow with one John Wells as manager. The Tithe Map of 1839 shows
the Inn clearly and the land on the right down to Manor Road is named Cow Close and so the road we think of as Lynn Road was
known as Cow Lane well into the last century. From the census of 1851 we know that John Waters was farming six acres there
and employing three labourers. He lived with his wife Ann, three daughters Mary Anne, Maria and Margaret aged six, and three
sons Robert, George and Samuel. Emily Denny from Congham was employed as a House Servant.
So already this was a well established farm and Inn of many years
but how did it get its name?
It is linked to an English hero of legend and romance Guy of
Warwick. His exploits were first written down by an Anglo-Norman
poet of the 12th century. Guy was the son of Siward, steward of
Roland Earl of Warwick and the story tells of the exploits he
undertakes to win the hand of the Earl’s daughter Phelis. He
performs great deeds abroad, rescues the daughter of the
Emperor of Germany, fights the Saracens and slays the Sultan.
He returns to England and marries Phelis but after fifty days he
sets off on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I don’t quite know what
that tells us of the marriage but no matter Guy is after all a hero
who must go on to other deeds of prowess. It is when he returns
to England that the Dun Cow enters the picture. The Dun Cow
was a savage beast that the fable says belonged to a giant and
was kept on Mitchell Fold Shropshire. The cow’s milk was inexhaustible but one day an old woman who had filled her pail with
milk wanted to fill her sieve as well. This so enraged the cow that she broke loose from the fold and went on the rampage over
Dunmore Heath. Enter our hero Guy of Warwick. Ta-Ra! After a fierce duel he slays the savage beast and saves the local
people from death and disaster. I have read that a huge tusk,
probably of an elephant, is still shown at Warwick Castle as one
of the horns of the cow. Has anyone seen this? As for Guy after
this he became a hermit near Warwick and regularly begged for
bread from his wife at his own castle gate. On his death bed he
sent her a ring by which she recognized him and went to close
his dying eyes!
After Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at Bosworth Field in 1485
and became King Henry V11 he returned to London in triumph.
Four hundred and thirty five worthy citizens of the city rode to
meet him and Henry led the procession through the city to St.
Paul’s. There he offered up the three ragged standards that he
had carried during the battle as a statement of his divine right to
rule. The standards were the Arms of St. George, a red fiery
dragon painted upon green and white sarcenet and a banner of
Tarteron beaten with an image of The Dun Cow. He probably used the Dun Cow banner as an assertion of his claim to the
Beaufort line and thus his right to the throne. The Beauforts claimed descent from our hero Guy of Warwick and Lady Margaret
Beaufort was descended from John of Gaunt son of Edward III.
By 1864 after her husband John died his wife Anne Waters ran the pub and the farm for some years until John Smith is recorded
in 1874 as the proprietor and farmer. He and his wife Catherine were host and hostess until sometime in the 1890s. I always
enjoy finding a reference that brings these villagers of times gone by to life. In early 1899 Catherine Smith died and the Parish
Magazine recorded that John and Catherine could talk of the years before
The Prince of Wales came to Sandringham and that to them the names of
Henley, Motteux and Cowper previous owners of the estate were as familiar
as household words. The obituary continues, Kate, as many friends and
admirers of the goodhearted and voluble hostess liked to call her, was with
her husband lovingly cared for in their later years at the house of their
daughter. After John and Catherine retired one of the longest serving
landlords took over, Thomas Augustus Magness. By 1896 the village
businesses were beginning to realize the benefits they could gain from the
railway and particularly the proximity of the Royal Family. William Henry
Mann at The Feathers was already advertising good stabling for hunters,
and first class accommodation for visitors in the neighbourhood;
conveyances to meet any train at Wolferton or Dersingham Theodor
Jannoch was advertising his nursery at The Old Hall as the largest grower of Lily of the Valley in England with a special warrant
to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. So Thomas Magness not to
be outdone states in his adverts Seaside visitors can have
good accommodation close to Sandringham.
Thomas ran the Dun Cow throughout the early traumatic
years of the Twentieth Century. He was there when Victoria
died and he contributed 2s 6d towards the cost of the medals
presented to the children as part of the celebrations for the
coronation of Edward V11. He would have taken part in the
celebrations for the coronation of George V and no doubt
joined his regulars in the discussions over the First World
War, and the awful events of 1916 when the Zeppelin
dropped bombs on Doddshill and the marshes. He was there
throughout the twenties and was certainly still the host in
1933. It was in 1937 that John Brett Billing is recorded as the
proprietor. It was also at this time that a massive change was to take place.
I am grateful to Dick Melton for helping me narrow down the date for the upheaval. Dick’s father was posted overseas in 1936 but
when he returned to the village in1939 the old Dun Cow Pub that he had always known was gone and in its place stood new
modern Dun Cow. So in about December 1938 the villagers watched as the new modern Dun Cow replaced the familiar old pub
as seen here on the right. Down came the long carstone cottage Inn, down came the cattle sheds and the farmyard pond
disappeared beneath the rubble; I wonder what they thought of it all? I can imagine the furore if it happened now.
I was told many years ago by a Dersingham resident that there had been a bad fire at the old Dun Cow which would explain the
demolition. But at the time of writing I have been unable to verify this. Nevertheless this new modern Dun Cow successfully
served the village for many years. During the Second World War it was recorded as a First Aid Station and was a close witness
to the devastating floods of 1953 as it looked out over the marshes towards the Wash.
The view above is as the Dun Cow could be seen from The Drift in 1988 before the new housing was constructed on the Mountbatten Estate.

Dick tells me that in the 1970s David Buck became the youngest ever Landlord at just 21 years of age.  But it was in 1993 that it ceased trading and stood with its windows boarded up for some time.  Rumours abounded as to what was planned.  A Nursing Home?  Flats?  As we know the Pub was demolished and Budgens Supermarket was built.

The area is still a hub of activity for the village as the Supermarket provides a valuable if different service to that of the Pub.  Many villagers will remember new modern Dun Cow but the numbers of those who remember the original old buildings and farm are small and becoming smaller every year.  Soon we will just have the old photographs and a very small section of curving wall to remind us of what once was there. 

See below for a slide show of the Dun Cow being demolished and construction of Budgen store in 1994/5.